Efforts launched to raise money for family of boys who fell into the Androscoggin River

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Brenda Card-Burmeister observes the tribute Monday morning on the Simard Payne Pedestrian Bridge. The tribute of stuffed animals, flowers and balloons has been growing steadily as the search continues for the 5-year-old boy who was swept away last week in the Androscoggin River. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — Police said two fundraising websites have been approved by the family of two young boys who fell into the Androscoggin River last week, one of whom is still missing, the other hospitalized.

Auburn Deputy Police Chief Jason Moen confirmed that a Facebook page has been created by the boys’ aunt, Michelle Naous, that can be found at www.gofundme.com/for-two-beautiful-children. Naous of Hallowell is the sister-in-law of the boys’ mother, Helena Gagliano-McFarland.

The brother of the boys’ father, Jason McFarland, also created a fundraising website. Shawn Thomas of Augusta has organized a fundraising page at www.youcaring.com/scottemileandfamily-1177282.

Naous’ GoFundMe page had raised more than $2,000 by Monday evening as had Thomas’ page, which purports to be raising money for Scott Emile and family. The goal of both fundraisers is $5,000.

The Sun Journal checked with local police for confirmation that both fundraising efforts are legitimate. Moen said they were.

According to information published at those websites and links, the parents of the two boys met in Italy and married in December 2007. McFarland had served two tours of duty in Iraq, the latter in 2009.

In 2012, the couple opened Gagliano’s Bistro on Water Street in Augusta, a family restaurant that served authentic Italian food. The couple held charitable and community events there, including dropping their own version of the New Year’s ball, which McFarland himself had built. Three years later, they were forced to close because of code violations in the building owned by their landlord.

Gagliano-McFarland has worked as an interpreter at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Lewiston since last year. According to her Facebook page, she also works as an interpreter for Maine Judicial Branch and Catholic Charities.

The two fundraising pages contain conflicting information about the family and the events that occurred on the evening of April 24, the day the two boys fell into the river.

One of the pages says the older boy is 10 years old, he other 9. Police had reported that the older brother, who was last listed in stable condition at Maine Medical Center in Portland, is 9.

The younger brother, who is 5 years old, was at Bonney Park, tossing rocks in the river in one version of events. In another, he was fishing with his father and older brother. In one version, Gagliano-McFarland was at the riverbank with her children. In another version, she was absent.

According to Moen’s initial report, the two brothers had fallen into the river and their sister and father attempted to pull the boys from the water but were unsuccessful.

The 9-year-old brother was pulled from the water about 30 minutes after the first call came in Tuesday, and was eventually taken by LifeFlight to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

He was in critical condition until Friday, when Moen announced he had improved to stable condition.

Search efforts for the 5-year-old were in full force until the weekend, when the search was scaled back due to weather and resources.

On Monday, Moen reported that the Maine Warden Service would continue to monitor the river with boat and aircraft patrols for the immediate future.

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